Magnum/Bad Company/Rattlesnake Remedy/Get Vegas
After getting a few pretty decent mini festivals at Chepstow castle, Welsh rock fans have now been relocated a few miles down the road to the equally photogenic Caldicot castle, specifically a nice sized flat grassy area overlooked by the ancient battlements. In the first of what I hope is many gigs, British stalwarts Magnum are bringing their familiar brand of melodic pomp, along with the even more stalwart Bad Company and newer boys Rattlesnake Remedy and get Vegas.
First up are Get Vegas, who play to a surprisingly small amount of people. Regardless of going on first and not even having a record deal, they produce some highly polished blues rock that showcases the fantastic Paul Rodgers-alike vocals of Jonny Cole. The lad's gonna get some great press in the future, and it's a good job he's got ginger hair to stop him getting too cocky (unless he goes all Hucknall on us). Although Cole is the obvious focal point, he's ably backed by the rest of the band, notably 18 year old Ric Gingell, a guitarist who balances the singers soulful barrage with some inspirational fretwork. It helps that they've come armed with some great laid back tracks as well, showing that this is certainly a band to watch out for. Check them out at http:/www.myspace.com/getvegas.
Rattlesnake Remedy seem to be everywhere, always touring but never seeming to break through as a major band. This is my first time seeing them, and as the crowd slowly swells they show just why they keep getting gigs and fans with some high energy blues rock that hints at a band that may be capable of taking on the likes of The Answer and Heaven's Basement. Singer Lee Stone certainly seems to be enjoying himself, bouncing off the crowd at every opportunity and selling himself like an Amsterdam hooker. The band are fine when they are playing the fast paced stuff, but when they go into some slower tracks my mind starts wandering and I begin to wonder exactly what all the fuss is about. There's no doubting that RR are pretty darned good at what they do, but I have a feeling that there's always going to be several bands who are going to it better.
From the off, it's quite obvious that Bad Company's Robert Hart is either drunk or just having a really good time on stage tonight. I decide it must be the latter, as he just doesn't stop smiling, even when posing Playgirl-like for a fan as he's sings “Fell Like Making Love” without dropping a note. There's some debate as to whether this is Bad Company or not in some circles, but with Mick Ralps and Dave Colwell backing a truly great singer (who was in the band himself anyway), then I feel they have every right to use the name. Hart seems to have decided that he's going to be Mr Entertainer anyway, stalking the stage like a man possessed whilst delivering the sort of vocals that the songs deserve. At the back, Harry James settles in for a 2 set night, taking a break from Thunder to play with both Bad Company and Magnum. The setlist is a bit of a wet dream for some, with the likes of “Good Lovin' Gone Bad”, “Deal With The Preacher” and “Ready For Love” showcasing the talents of the three guys at the front, and also their apparent joy in each others (bad) company. Personally, it was great to hear “Seagull”, one of my all time favourite songs, and a nice touch was Hart introducing “Fire & Water” as 'our tribute to Free', before doing a sterling job on it. They finish a triumphant set with a strange version of “Shooting Star” (strange because Hart totally forgets the words), and the obligatory “Can't Get Enough”. It's odd that this is my first time seeing Bad Company after all these years, but it was worth the wait. Rodgers of no Rodgers, Bad Company will still give you a hell of a show.
There was a slight worry that Bob Catley might not have been here today, as he was traveling back from Wacken, where he sang with headliners Avantasia. Luckily, everything went smoothly and he was jetted back in time. As the gig is in the height of Summer, Magnum are the only band that actually get to play in the dark. They open with old favourite “Back To earth”, and the stage is bathed in some pretty impressive lights that add nicely to the atmosphere. For the first few songs it almost seems like Bob is a bit knackered from his travels, but thankfully he soon shakes it off and is back to his usual traffic directing self. We get a set that compresses their recent “Wings Of Heaven” anniversary tour a bit, dropping out the likes of “One Step Away” and “Pray For the Day”, but still hurling such great songs as “Midnight”, “Days Of No Trust” and “When We Were Younger” at us. The crowd is hugely appreciative, even though the arena is only about a quarter full. The band are tight as ever, with Bob and bassist Al Barrow providing the movement whilst guitarist Tony Clarkin is content as ever to stay in his corner and pull off riffs and solos with apparent ease. The set ends with the brilliant “Don't Wake The Lion”, a song that never fails to mesmerize, before the band wander off and return for the unavoidable “Kingdom Of Madness”. Pretty much faultless performances by Magnum and Bad Company ensure that everyone goes away happy, with the two opening bands showing that there's plenty more to look forward to in the future. See you next year? Let's hope so.
Review & Photos by Alan Holloway